'She just knows,' she’d answer.
Grandma lived without a telephone on a cotton farm in the middle of Georgia. We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, a good 10 hours away. Our visits always were random and spontaneous; she never had any advance warning that we were on the way.
Hoping to surprise his mother, my father frequently would shut off the engine to our old Chevy and let it coast into her driveway. It didn’t work. We never caught her unprepared. She always knew when we were coming, and she was ready: fresh sheets on the beds, dinner cooked, Grandma waiting on the front porch.
My grandmother also knew when someone was in trouble. She would say there was a knock on the cabinet door. I never heard the knock, but I believed her. And I believed her when she spoke of magic, ghosts, spirits, and fairies that danced in the rain. During each visit, I would sit on her lap, mesmerized, and ask her to repeat her stories about the wonders I could not see.
At some point during my college years, between Logic 101 and Psychology 213, I allowed the real world—the world of 'If you can’t taste, touch, or feel it, it doesn’t exist'—to take over. Settled snugly into an educational system that valued analytical reasoning, I forgot my grandmother’s world of the unseen. Especially after I chose to pursue a scientific career in the field of psychology.
But in 1983 my professionally instilled assumptions about the nature of reality were turned upside down. I was working as a mental health analyst for the state attorney general’s office, and one morning my boss requested a list of documents she needed for an upcoming trial. Without a second thought, I wrote down the document numbers and handed the list to my secretary. She soon came to my desk and said, 'These are not what Karen asked for. These are random letters that I boxed up to be sent to the archives this morning.' I could not believe my ears. Confused by my error, I quickly wrote down the correct document numbers and went off to lunch.
When I returned, my secretary met me at the door. Out of the blue, a new lawsuit had been filed against the state. It turned out that the documents I had first listed were the very ones needed for the new case. Thanks to my mistake, the box had not been sent to the archives, and the documents were easily retrieved. This single event reawakened a natural intuitive side that I had allowed to fade.
Because I had been rigorously taught that information comes from books, I searched my psychology textbooks for answers to how I knew what I knew. Not finding any answers, I began to think back to my childhood. When I was 4, I spent a significant amount of time with my grandmother. Like many settlers in the southern mountains of the United States, my grandmother (and her children) used intuition, or 'telepathy,' as researchers called it. Nearly all of Grandma’s telepathic/ intuitive communications involved the well-being of her family. Using only her thoughts, she could call the men in from the cotton fields for dinner and sense the whereabouts of her children. She also said she often talked with those who had recently died. Scientists have discovered that at about the age when I was spending time with my grandma a growth spurt occurs in the brain, creating more neural connections. These connections include our potential for intuition and musical ability.
A CHILD’S SENSE OF INTUITION and imagination seems to fade around age 7 if it is not developed. I was an only child, and my imagination stayed especially active. I played in the woods with imaginary friends. If my parents thought these playmates existed only in my mind, they never said so. They supported my creativity in numerous ways, allowing me to decorate my bedroom with Christmas lights, to build tents with old quilts in the living room, to draw, cut, color, and paint; if it could be imagined, I did it. And my mother’s simple reply to my question about Grandma, 'She just knows,' taught me that it was acceptable to get information in ways that can’t easily be explained.
Not long after the incident with the legal documents, I synchronistically met a woman at a local bookstore who was a trainer at the Monroe Institute, an educational and research organization dedicated to exploring human consciousness. After talking with her, I decided to sign up for an education program at the Virginia-based institute.
During the weeklong session, I rediscovered the power of my imagination. I noticed how thoughts or feelings or pictures that popped spontaneously into my head could provide information about a person or a situation. Around this time, I also realized that I could sense the physical distress of other people; I even felt the impending heart attack of a co-worker. And if someone had a headache, I would feel it. Because it came naturally to me, I practiced reading other people’s bodies from a distance.
I came to understand the knowing my grandmother used was her intuition—although she didn’t call it that. Intuition isn’t mystical. It’s a sense we all have, probably our first sense, one that’s necessary for survival. Often defined as 'the power of knowing,' intuition is wisdom that comes from within. Intuition is what tells us when something simply doesn’t feel right, the gut feeling that reveals something wrong with someone we love—when for all practical purposes the person looks and sounds fine. The best way to understand the power of intuition is to act upon it. Intuition is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger it gets. When your intuition appears, be willing to be flexible, to change plans or get a second opinion.
If a thought makes its way into your consciousness, check it out to see if the information is valid. I once postponed surgery on my dog because it didn’t 'feel right.' It turned out that my trusted veterinarian was called away on the original date of surgery and that another, less knowledgeable veterinarian who did not know the delicate nature of my pet would have performed the operation.
Intuition speaks softly, is patient, and will repeat the same message several times. An intuitive thought could pop into your head at any time. Intuition often speaks when you least expect it; your responsibility is to learn to listen.
What I’ve discovered since that fateful day at the office is that intuition is a powerful inner force, a sense that too many of us try to push aside. When we cultivate our natural intuition, new worlds present themselves to us. Discover your intuition. Use it. Rely on it.
Winter Robinson is a licensed therapist, a medical intuitive, and author of Intuitions: Seeing with the Heart, Remembering: A Gentle Reminder of Who You Are, and the Discovering Intuition cassette series. She lives in Maine with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and two geese.
From Mothering (March/April 2001). Subscriptions: $18.95/yr. (6 issues) from Box 1690, Santa Fe, NM 87501